SEO copywriting doesn’t exist!

SEO copywriting - lies!

As a freelance copywriter who writes the bulk of his work for the web, I receive a lot of requests for SEO copywriting.

When I started out writing for a living by using freelancing sites, I would see jobs advertised saying things like this:

  • “Freelance SEO Copywriter wanted!”
  • “Articles must be rich in keywords!”
  • “The stipulated keywords should constitute at least 5-7% of the web page!”

Even post-Panda and Penguin, you might still see job ads calling for both “a good knowledge of SEO” and “a keyword density of at least 1.5%”.

This is a stupid contradiction in terms.

Because as stated in a video on the Moz website, keyword density is a “useless metric”.

 Keyword density is a dead horse – so stop flogging it!

According to Rand Fishkin of Moz in the video mentioned above, keyword density was becoming a pointless concern as far back as 2002.

As I say earlier in this post, I do a lot of web copywriting and follow changes in SEO with interest. So, of course, there are steps you can take to boost your search engine ranking. 

These include:

  • writing and posting good quality content on your blog
  • writing for the human reader 

Simply put, you should forget about keyword stuffing.

Yes, links to your website are valuable ‘link juice’, but only from trusted, ‘high-authority’ sites.

Never seek links from spammy websites which take money in exchange for mentions within useless content.

This black-hat technique used to work well for improving search engine ranking. These days, it does the opposite.

In fact, SEO experts charge a small fortune to remove bad links that have seen countless websites suffer ranking penalties. 

Some (hello, Interflora) were even stricken from the Google results due to sneaky attempts to boost their search engine profile.

By contrast, you get good backlinks by producing great content that people want to share or link to.

Topic not keywords…

Another video posted on the Moz website shows that it’s the topic, not keyword density, that’s important.

Yes, it’s still useful to place your keyword phrase in your headline, meta-title and meta-description.

But as long as the topic of your copy or content relates to your keyword, then you’re on the right track.

Why? Because Google’s become pretty good at sussing out what’s relevant and what’s not. 

Syntax and grammar are also much more important than the keyword.

So, if my keyword phrase were freelance copywriter Leeds, I shouldn’t use it exactly as written in either my copy, meta-titles or descriptions.

This is because it lacks the preposition ‘in’, as in freelance copywriter in Leeds.

Good SEO is good copywriting!

The purpose of content marketing is to engage. 

And that is exactly what well-written, persuasive copywriting does. It’s what prompts people within your industry – or one connected to it in some way – to link to your website.

The phrase ‘SEO copywriting’ has been bugging me for a while.

So I was pleased to read a post written by fellow copywriter, Andy Maslen, called “Lies, damn lies and SEO copywriting”. In his post, Maslen states that the best copy has always been “full of rich, relevant detail”.

A scornful comment from a reader of Maslen’s post points to its high Flesch score, and the use of alt text to undermine the argument against SEO copywriting.

But as Maslen states in his withering reply to that comment, good copywriting is “naturally optimised for the reader”. After all, alt text exists purely for their benefit.

Which is exactly why Google awards websites that use it right!

Bad SEO is dead, long live great copy!

I love words and take great pride in writing a catchy headline that engages readers.

And I think the death of spammy content, and the rebirth of great copy can only be a good thing. This is true not just for copywriters, but also for readers.

Because engaging your customers should always lie at the heart of your marketing efforts.

12 replies
    • DJWebb
      DJWebb says:

      Hi Corinne, thanks for your comment. I’m glad you like article, and I’m really pleased that there are other copywriters like you who feel the same way.

  1. Steve Riley
    Steve Riley says:

    Nice. In a previous employ I had cause to gently re-edit some copy that had been through an ‘SEO expert’s’ hands. He’d turned some great, engaging copy into machine-readable garbage. He didn’t get any repeat business 🙂

  2. karen marchetti
    karen marchetti says:

    I find that many small business clients attempt to write blog posts and additional website copy in-house. Most of the time, SEO tags aren’t used and the copy hasn’t been written by a copywriter.

    I can come in as an “SEO copywriter” and create an optimized Title and Description for the page and polish the writing. So “SEO Copywriter” has become somewhat of an editor, or a combination copy and SEO consultant perhaps — a copywriter who comes in and adds the SEO tags, re-writes the headline if needed, adds subheads, adds a link to other appropriate content, ends the blog post with a question, etc. For small businesses, this type of “review” helps both the effectiveness of the SEO and the copy in general.

    • DJWebb
      DJWebb says:

      Hi Karen, thanks for your comment. It’s great that you are able to offer genuine SEO services in addition – or as part of – your copywriting. However, I would argue that a distinction needs to be made between someone like you and someone who espouses outdated and ultimately harmful techniques, and that describing yourself as an SEO copywriter will ultimately undermine the good work that you do.

  3. Randall Whitted
    Randall Whitted says:

    Excellent – wish this could be shouted from the rooftops. The challenge of good copywriting for clients is helping them understand that it’s a solid long-term strategy, not a quick, short-term high. All those calls they get from SEO companies promising the first page on Google are not selling good copywriting, they’re selling SEO Heroin.

    Thanks for doing us copywriter proud David!

  4. Sara
    Sara says:

    Thanks for an excellent article. I often come across websites with really poor content and manufactured ‘keyword placement’. Some are so dreadful they are quite entertaining but offer a very poor or non-existent ROI for a business. Interesting article from Moz about SEO All the best for 2015. Sara . PS. Randall, love the ‘SEO heroin’ comment.

  5. Doug
    Doug says:

    One of the more sensible posts I’ve seen on SEO – well said, David. It’s all about writing interesting content for humans, in a human voice. And the more sophisticated Google’s algorithm becomes, the less emphasis there’ll be on the technical side of things. For a long time, SEO was considered to be some kind of mysterious black art, but apart from a nod to the basics such as title, description etc., it’s purely a case of writing what people want to read.


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